In today’s fast-paced world, there is one criticism pitched at more mature individuals — they don’t keep up with technology.
Nothing could be further from the truth, but who ever let the truth get in the way of a good story?
Whether you consider yourself tech savvy or not, when you start a small business in your 40s or later, you can make good use of a few really neat technology tools that are not only easy to use, but will help you be more productive in running your business.
These technology solutions can be incredibly beneficial to time, cost, and labour savings, and therefore profitability improvements for any business. Others make your marketing campaigns quicker to implement, while still more make sure you focus on the right activities each day.
I’m not endorsing any brands, other than mentioning some that I use in our business every day. I am not paid to recommend them, and for any that I do recommend, there will be several alternatives.
Every day, a new application or piece of software is launched that supports various business activities. I recommend keeping an eye on the popular ones, but you don’t have to keep up with the newest tools every day — just choose something that works for you and embed its use in your everyday business dealings.
Here are five that I use, that I recommend you use, too.
Using software for my bookkeeping has got to be one of the most effective support tools I’ve implemented in my business. Within the space of 16 years, we’ve gone from paper-based receipts and invoices, to a desktop system, to a cloud system.
But it wasn’t until we moved to the cloud system — in our case we use Xero — that we made the most dramatic change.
I’ve now saved nearly $800 a month on bookkeeping services, and the time I spend keeping things up to date, running reports, and communicating with my accountant has dropped significantly. Overall, we believe we’ve added close to $25,000 to our bottom line in time and monetary costs from the introduction of a system that costs us $600 a year to access.
Email marketing software
In our benchmarking of small businesses, we found that less than 20 per cent of all small businesses have communicated with their database of existing customers in the last 12 months.
A simple monthly newsletter or short email communicating your news and specials to clients is just one way bulk email software can be useful in your business.
Using a professional program like MailChimp, or Campaign Monitor (which we use), can make contacting customers and prospects incredibly easy — and affordable. For a few dollars a month, you can have professional communications scheduled to go out to customers, keeping you in touch with them on a regular basis.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software
It is very efficient to have some kind of database system where you can keep client details and information.
These systems are very easy to set up, quite cost effective for a small business, and are often — and this is the awesome part — able to be integrated into other pieces of technology in your business.
The centralising of customer data, and the tracking and reporting of information in a system like this will save you a lot of time and money.
In many businesses, there is a need to train staff. The technology is accessible and cost-effective to develop, and make information and courses available online. Programs like enlight.io, CourseGenius, and others allow you to load video and audio content, and then give individual users access to do these courses.
The big saving is helping you avoid having to continually repeat key information about systems or processes in your business. Just record it once and then have staff view the video when they have questions.
My final piece of technology is perhaps the most accessible and simplest. It is audio recording software and if you have an iPhone or Android phone, it’s already sitting right there on your phone.
I use the voice memo app on my phone daily — to record thoughts ideas and notes about products and services, systems and ideas. I then send it to a transcriber who — for a very low fee — types these notes into a document for me. I can do anything from dictate an article or make meeting notes to brainstorming.
There is an app available called Rev, where you can record the memo and then automatically send it for transcription for a very low fee. This very simple piece of technology can revolutionise your time management, particularly if you are a slow typist like me.
So, there you go — five pieces of technology that can be a friend to your business, and to your profitability, efficiency, and effectiveness. Most systems are easy to use, accessible, and cost effective — any business owner (of any age) can embed the use of technology in their business, regardless of past training or “savviness” with technology.